ARND occurs due to fetal exposure to alcohol before birth. This happens when a person drinks alcohol during pregnancy.

Alcohol exposure in the womb can cause developmental issues in a fetus. People with ARND can have cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems.

This article looks at what ARND is, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment options.

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ARND is a type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

FASDs can occur in a fetus if a pregnant person drinks alcohol at any stage of pregnancy. Alcohol can pass from the bloodstream of the pregnant person to the fetus via the umbilical cord.

FASDs can cause lifelong behavioral, learning, and physical symptoms. FASDs continue throughout a person’s lifetime, but intervention treatments can help improve development during childhood.

ARND is a neurodevelopmental condition. People may have learning and behavioral difficulties, problems regulating mood, and poor impulse control.

ARND can cause problems with learning and behavior. People may experience difficulties at school or work.

ARND can cause intellectual disabilities. Those with ARND may experience difficulties in the following areas:

  • math
  • memory
  • judgment
  • attention
  • impulse control

People with ARND may find it difficult to regulate their emotions and reactions. They may have problems getting along with others or following rules.

People with ARND may also have other symptoms of FASD, such as:

  • hyperactive behavior
  • poor memory
  • difficulty concentrating
  • speech and language delays
  • poor coordination

These symptoms will be present from childhood.

Children with ARND may have some growth disturbance, but not always. Unlike with other FASD conditions, a person with ARND will not have facial malformation.

There is no one test for diagnosing ARND. Doctors look for certain signs of FASDs, such as:

  • prenatal exposure to alcohol, although doctors do not require evidence of this to make a diagnosis
  • problems relating to the central nervous system, such as smaller than normal head size, poor coordination, or problems with attention
  • lower than average height, weight, or both

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the criteria for diagnosing ARND involves the following:

  • prenatal exposure to alcohol
  • neurodevelopmental and behavioral effects from prenatal alcohol exposure
  • all the key symptoms of facial malformation or growth problems that occur with FASD are not present
  • neurocognitive deficits, such as problems with memory or learning
  • problems with self-regulation, such as poor impulse control
  • learning difficulties
  • problems with adaptive function skills, such as getting along with others

There is no cure for ARND, but early intervention and support can help and may improve development during childhood. These may include:

  • behavioral therapy
  • special education and educational therapies
  • medications to help with certain symptoms, such as behavioral issues
  • social services, which can help provide support for a child and their family, such as respite care or counseling

To prevent ARND, a person who is pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or thinks they might be pregnant needs to avoid any alcohol.

There is no known safe level of alcohol to consume during pregnancy.

Certain factors, or protective factors, may help prevent the effects of ARND from developing further or worsening. These include:

  • Early diagnosis and support: Getting a diagnosis as early as possible, ideally before age 6 years, allows a child and their family to receive the necessary support they need and better understand the condition.
  • Special education and social services support: Special education to support a child with ARND can allow them to better reach their potential. Social services can also have a positive effect on families.
  • A nurturing home environment: A stable, loving home is important to support a child with ARND. It can help prevent secondary conditions that can arise from FASDs.
  • Absence of violence: Not having exposure to or involvement in violence can help improve outcomes for people with FASDs and help prevent secondary conditions.

A person with ARND will have the condition throughout their lifetime. A range of support services can help them better manage their symptoms.

Receiving the support they require and growing up in a loving, nurturing, and safe environment can help a person with ARND reach their full potential and help prevent secondary conditions, such as mental health conditions.

According to an American Psychological Association article, people living with FASD can lead successful lives with the right support and tools.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about ARND and FASD.

Is alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder the same as FASD?

ARND is not exactly the same as FASD — it is a type of FASD.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) refer to a collection of disorders in which a person has exposure to alcohol before they are born.

The type of symptoms a person has determines which type of FASD they have.

What is the difference between alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder and ADHD?

Types of fetal alcohol syndrome, such as ARND, can have similar symptoms to ADHD.

ARND is a condition that causes cognitive impairments and problems with learning and behavior that occur due to prenatal exposure to alcohol.

ADHD is a mental health condition that can cause hyperactivity, attention problems, and impulsive behaviors.

However, the main difference is that ARND is from alcohol exposure to a fetus before birth. There is no clear cause of ADHD, but genetics and environmental factors may play a role.

ARND is a type of FASD, which occurs due to alcohol exposure during pregnancy. ARND can cause learning and behavior problems but does not include the changes in facial features that other FASDs can have.

Early diagnosis is an important part of managing ARND symptoms and preventing secondary conditions, such as mental health conditions.

Educational and behavioral therapies and social services can help support people with ARND as well as their families.